Archery is a sport that is open to everyone; it is inclusive of all ages, genders and abilities. Athletes with physical or cognitive impairments, who may otherwise be dissuaded from participating in sports can participate in archery alongside athletes without any disability.
Don’t think you have to purchase all of the equipment you need before you hit the range for the first time. Instead call your local archery retail shop, club or range. Many will allow you to rent equipment so that you can try out a variety of options prior to purchasing your own. Any Move United chapter that provides lessons will also include all of the equipment required in the lesson fee.
Participants may utilize either a recurve or compound bow. USA Archery recommends using a recurve bow due to the fact it has a lower poundage draw weight (effort required to pullback the bowstring) and to properly develop correct form.
When you head to your first lesson, take the time to talk with your instructor. To complete the archery shot process, you will need to be able to nock the arrow (place the arrow onto the bowstring, raise the bow to shoulder level, draw back the bowstring to your chin and release the arrow towards the target. Once all the arrows have been shot, the archer is also expected to retrieve their own arrows. If you have concerns about any of these requirements, mention them to your instructor and they can help you come up with equipment adaptations to help you with your shot process and can also assign an agent to help you to retrieve your arrows.
The first thing you’ll want to decide is which position you’ll take your shot from.
Standing: Archers with upper-limb amputations, single leg amputation or those without balance issues will participate in the sport while standing.
Bracing: For those archers that may need just a small amount of assistance holding their position, but are interested in standing, consider a braced position. A simple wedge under the heel may be all that’s required to help maintain balance. Other archers may request the use of a post or brace to lean against to help steady themselves throughout the shot process.
Sitting: If standing isn’t an option, archers can participate while sitting in their everyday wheelchair or on a stool. Archers should take care to make sure the chosen seat doesn’t impede the shot motion.
Once you’ve selected your bow and your position, you’ll want to speak with your instructor about any range of motion concerns you have. Common adaptations for each step are listed below.
Nocking the arrow: Archers with limited hand movement, can request assistance with placing the arrow onto the bowstring.
Drawing and releasing the bowstring: Drawing the bowstring requires arm strength and grip. If you are unable to draw back the bowstring without assistance, you can request help from a coach or volunteer or use one of the common equipment adaptations below:
Finger Tabs: For archers with limited grip, finger tabs or quad gloves can help. Finger tabs are a flat leather device that fits between the finger and bowstring.
Bow Stands: Another adaptation is a bow stand which helps hold the bow so the archer can focus on just pulling back the bowstring.
Mouth Tabs: For archers who have lost the use of an arm, a mouth tab can be used to draw back the bowstring. The mouth tab attaches permanently to the bowstring and is held between the archer’s molar teeth while drawing, holding and releasing the bowstring.
Mechanical Releases: For archers who use a compound bow, a mechanical release aid with a trigger mechanism can assist with the release of the bowstring.
Arrow Retrieval: For archers that have difficulties walking a volunteer or agent can be assigned to assist with arrow retrieval at the end of each round.
Now that you’ve taken your first show, you might wonder, how do I count up my score? Scoring in target archery competitions is fairly simple. Each target features 10 scoring rings divided among five colors, and the closer to the center of the target the higher the score. Working from outside in, the two outer-most white rings are worth 1 and 2 points, the next two black rings are worth 3 and 4 points, next up are two blue rings worth 5 and 6 points, then comes two red rings worth 7 and 8 points and finally the two gold center rings are worth 9 and 10 points. If you hit the line between two circles, you use the points associated with the circle of higher point value.
Competition formats will vary by event. However, all USA Archery sanctioned archery events will include a qualification round of either 36 arrows (indoor) or 72 arrows (outdoor). USA Archery Indoor events are shot at a distance of 18M and USA Archery outdoor events are shot at a distance of either 50M (Compound) or 70M 9recurve). Some events will also include elimination rounds, mixed team or team rounds. No matter the exact rules, every competition has archers shoot the same number of arrows in a set number of rounds from the same distance based on their division. The archer with the highest score wins. USA Archery’s free Event Reference Guidebook will help you to prepare for your first event.
While aiming your arrow and hitting the target is important, it is equally important that archers can safely draw down in case of an emergency on the range. Each range has a set of whistle commands that let archers know when they should approach the shooting line, when it is safe to shoot at the target and in the case of an emergency, when they should release their arrows and back away from the shooting area. Archers should practice this motion so that they can be ready to safely draw down without releasing the bowstring.
Ready to take your shot? Find a local Move United Member Organization that provides adaptive archery instruction.
Don’t have a Move United chapter near you? Visit the USA Archery Coach Locator or Club Locator to find a coach or club near you. USA Archery coaches are familiar with the Adaptive Archery Instructor Manual and Adaptive Archery Video Series and can help you to participate in any USA Archery program. Also, check out the Paralympic Club Directory.
In partnership with USA Archery and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Move United has produced an Adaptive Archery Instructor Manual. Designed as a complement to the USA Archery coach’s certification program. This manual explains the various teaching techniques and adaptations required to help integrate an athlete with a disability into a new or existing archery program.
In addition to the Adaptive Archery Manual, through generous grant funding from VA Adaptive Sports, USA Archery also created a library of helpful video content on topics such as shooting from a wheelchair, with a mouthtab, prosthetic, shoulder release, and how to make a mouth tab, etc. Click here to view the video series.
USA Archery Resources:
- Resource Brochure for Clubs and Coaches
- Resource Brochure for Athletes and Parents
- Become a Coach
- Find a Coach
- Find a Club
- Athlete Development Model
- Achievement Award Programs
- Find an Event
- Veteran Grant Programs
- Para United States Archery Team Selection Procedures
- World Archery Classification and Rules
- Para Archery Classification Information
- Paralympic Games Selection Procedures
Classification provides a structure for para competition. The classification system is designed to determine eligibility and group athletes according to their impairment to create a level playing field. Classifiers go through extensive training and are certified by World Archery to carefully determine whether athletes qualify for para competition. Classification can be either national or international. To find out more, visit USA Archery.